Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is Piedmont like Burgundy?

I am sorry for the long period of silence. It had nothing to do with dry July, but I was not able to taste wine for a few weeks. Then I toured Piedmont (or Piermont or pie monte if you like) for three days. It is a highly original wine growing area, focussed on the red grapes Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Winemakers there like to compare themselves to Burgundy. This would be flattering, of course, given Burgundy prices and wine quality at times. But does it really make sense?

There are clearly some similarities. The map on the left shows the crus of Barolo. It is too detailed for you to read any specifics. The main point here is that vineyard blocks are very small, and so are the quantities of wine. There is also a lot of detail available on soils, and the focus on terroir and single vineyard wines is evident.

But there are also significant differences, quite relevant to the consumer. The Nebbiolo grape is not a Pinot Noir. Nebbiolo dominates the region, with its two main expressions of Barbaresco in the north east, and Barolo west and south. There are floral and aromatic expressions of Nebbiolo, but the structure is different from Pinot Noir, which in its great expression is elegant with an expanding finish. Nebbiolo has bigger weight and a strong tannic structure with a very dry finish in its youth. The Nebbiolo structure is closer to Cabernet Sauvignon, while the flavour can have similarities with Burgundy.

I have reviewed Barolo here from time to time, but the next three posts will cover the region in more details. I spent the first day in Barbaresco, the second in La Morra and the third in and around the village of Barolo.

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